Utah Republicans Move to Override Their Own Constituents

Written by SK Ashby

The citizens of Utah voted to participate in Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) with no strings attached during the November elections, but Republicans in the state legislature are trying to override the will of their own voters.

State lawmakers are advancing legislation that will attach several strings to Medicaid expansion that will make it far less expansive than voters intended.

The Utah Senate approved a bill Wednesday that would toss out a grassroots-driven, voter-backed ballot initiative to offer Medicaid benefits to any Utahn earning up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level (about $16,000 a year for a single person), paid for by raising the sales tax on certain goods from 4.7 percent to 4.85 percent.

The legislation instead would expand Medicaid to fewer people, enable Utah to receive less federal money for the program and impose limitations on benefits, including work requirements. [...]

According to a Salt Lake Tribune analysis of the vote Wednesday, 10 Republican senators representing districts where a majority voted in favor of the expansion are supporting the bill to modify it, including the legislation’s main sponsor, Sen. Allen Christensen.

If the Republican-controlled state legislature ultimately passes this legislation, it's possible the state will never expand its Medicaid program.

Under current law, there's nothing preventing the state from participating in Medicaid expansion as the voters intended. The Trump regime does not have the authority to say a state cannot participate. It is possible, however, that the federal government could reject the curtailed program the state legislature is advancing. And in that case, the state won't participate in Medicaid expansion.

Paying for the state's relatively small share of expansion (the federal government still covers over 90 percent of the cost) by raising the state's sales tax by just 0.15 percent is such a minuscule cost, the only reason one could have for opposing full Medicaid expansion is if you simply don't believe people should have access to health care.